Tritonic scale

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Example tritonic scale.[1] About this soundPlay 

A tritonic scale is a musical scale or mode with three notes per octave. This is in contrast to a heptatonic (seven-note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale, or a dodecatonic (chromatic 12-note) scale, both common in modern Western music. Tritonic scales are not common in modern art music, and are generally associated with savage and primitive music, in both the descriptive and the derogatory senses.[2][failed verification]



Early Indian Rig Vedic hymns were tri-tonic, sung in three pitches with no octave: Udatta, Anudatta, and Swarita.


In a 1969 study, Mervyn McLean noted that tritonic scales were the most common among the Maori tribes he surveyed, comprising 47% of the scales used.[3]

South America[edit]

The pre-Hispanic herranza ritual music of the Andes is generally tritonic, based on a major triad, and played on the waqra phuku trumpet, violin, and singer with a tinya drum. The tritonic scale is largely limited to this ritual and to some southern Peruvian Carnival music.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bruno Nettl and Helen Myers (1976). Folk Music in the United States: An Introduction, third edition (Wayne Books WB41) Detroit: Wayne State University Press, p. 40. ISBN 9780814315569 (cloth); ISBN 9780814315576 (pbk).
  2. ^ Onkar Prasad, "Tribal Music: Its Proper Context", in Tribal Thought and Culture: Essays in Honour of Surajit Chandra Sinha, edited by Baidyanath Saraswati, 131–49 (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1991): 131 (accessed 18 January 2020) ISBN 978-81-7022-340-5
  3. ^ Mervyn McLean (1996). Māori Music. Auckland University Press. pp. 239–. ISBN 978-1-86940-144-3. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  4. ^ Raúl R. Romero (19 July 2001). Debating the Past: Music, Memory, and Identity in the Andes. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-0-19-513881-8. Retrieved 24 June 2012.